Food Picks: Vegging out

VEGGING OUT 

One of my colleagues uses a lovely term to express surprise or delight.

“Oh my tian!” she says. Tian is Chinese for day, sky or heaven. You decide, depending on your degree of delight.

So OMT pops into my head when food from SPRMRKT arrives at my door.

I love its new, vegetable forward menu. Fresh, crunchy and light are what I want in food textures right now because I am just a little over rich food. All those hot carbs have been great. They give such comfort. But when I think about going back to the office, and how I am going to fit into my work clothes, I figure I’d better get my act together.

My act will be to order some delicious food from the restaurant, which has outposts at Dempsey Hill and Cluny Court.

All the food is delicious and light but Nasu ($12) makes me murmur OMT, OMT, OMT as I dip the matchstick pieces of crisp, deep fried eggplant into the honey yogurt dip. There is soft baked eggplant too, the deep purple Japanese variety grown in Malaysia.

In Kim Chi ($12), Korean fermented cabbage is mixed with cream cheese to make a dip for cucumber spears and thin sheets of flaxseed studded crackers. I would love more spice and tang in the dip but then I finish all of it in one sitting.

If all this sounds too virtuous for you, then order Crab ($18), a dip made with blue swimmer crab, spinach, cream and parmesan cheese. It is just rich enough to feel decadent, but will not bring on a food coma. There is grilled bread to dip into it, but the cucumber spears and flax crackers work beautifully too.

My main course of Mackerel ($27) is light too. There is a slight sweet vibe to the fish and it comes from coconut sugar. The tamarind is a tad elusive. Lovely curly kale tossed with butter and a tangy tomato salsa round off the dish.

The perfect drink to go with my meal is Pineapple Chilli Lime ($8.50), with a little heat from Tabasco. Add rum, vodka or gin for $5. Do it, I say.

That tangy, piquant drink really makes my tian.

WHERE: SPRMRKT at 8 Dempsey Hill, 01-15A; and 02-13 Cluny Court INFO: Go to e.sprmrkt.com.sg to order, or call or WhatsApp the outlets on 8129-8166 (Dempsey) and 9736-4170 (Cluny Court). Islandwide delivery costs $10. Payment is via PayNow or PayLah. Delivery is also available via Deliveroo, Foodpanda and GrabFood.

MAJESTIC FOOD

I have tried, in vain, to book a table at Majestic Restaurant in Marina One. It is jam packed on weekends, when I want to dine there. But now, I can order the food and have it delivered. Perfect.

The choices are many but I know what I want, from the photos I have seen on my friends’ social media accounts.

So the first thing I click on is Homemade Hor Fun With Seafood, Kai Lan Egg Wash Sauce ($24), a generous portion that will serve two. What my friends say is true – the rice noodles boast good wok hei. There is a generous helping of seafood too – prawns, scallops and squid tentacles, plus a couple of pearls of salmon roe. It comes drowning in gravy, and might seem perplexing. But think of the distance those noodles have to travel to get to you, and it all makes sense. You don’t want a box of dried up horfun, trust me.

Another excellent option is Black Chicken Soup With Chinese Herbs And Conpoy ($28, good for four). This is just $2 more than a similar soup (without conpoy) from an eating house I wrote about recently. That soup has a more robust herbal flavour but Majestic’s version is deeply satisfying too, and that dried seafood vibe adds tons of umami to every spoonful.

If you like your char siew with a good fat to meat ratio (more fat than meat), order Kurobuta Pork Char Siew From Master Chef ($16). I love the QQ texture of the fat, the tender meat and the not-too-sweet marinade. It comes with two sauces; one forgettable, and the other with a bright yellow hue. It is passion fruit, an excellent dipping sauce for the pork because the light tartness balances out the richness.

Other things I like include Poached Dace Fish Ball With Scallion Ginger Sauce ($6.80 for four). Next time I order it, I’ll cook some egg noodles and toss it with the fishballs and sauce, so delicious it is. Fresh Pork Dumplings With Chives ($9.80 for eight) is livened up by finely chopped fresh garlic, and are worth suffering the post meal dragon breath.

I am mildly disappointed with Panfried Carrot Cake With Pork In XO Sauce ($15). The texture of the radish cake is beautifully soft, but the XO sauce is not punchy, and there is not enough of it. This, however, is easily fixed.

As Singapore moves towards opening up again, Majestic is joining a growing list of restaurants I am determined to go to. May it happen soon.

WHERE: Majestic Restaurant INFO: Go to www.chope.co/singapore-restaurants/restaurant/majestic-restaurant, delivery hours are 11.30am to 9pm daily. The islandwide delivery charge is $5.

CARBO LOADING 

I am pretty sure half of you are rolling your eyes at my sudden craving for vegetables. The other half have turned the page. No carbs, no life, is what you are thinking, right?

Well okay, I have a place which offers good carbs. The kind of hearty, rustic food you are craving right now.

The Black Sheep Cafe in Sin Ming is a place I go to for light-as-air biryani.

Lamb Shank Biryani ($24) is meant to serve two, but there is enough rice for three. At least. The rice on the plate? About a third of what’s actually in the box. The fluffy basmati rice is fragrant, and it is studded with sliced almonds and golden raisins. But the main event is the meaty shank; aromatic and earthy, and almost fall-off-the-bone tender.

The rice and lamb are good enough on their own, but I like pairing the rice with spoonfuls of the mango, chilli and onion mixed with yogurt that comes as part of the set. The sweet-tart mango offsets some of the richness of the biryani. If you are the sort that shies away from tart flavours, there is ample curry gravy to spoon over the rice.

But it is the Old Style Mee Goreng ($7.90) that makes me sit up and order. I haven’t had mee goreng in a very long time, and I am glad to see this version isn’t like some versions I have seen, which are coloured that weird fluorescent red. The noodles travel well, and don’t seize up. And there is plenty of it for at least two people.

All the old school elements are there: chunks of tomatoes, onions raw and cooked, starchy peas, and cubes of potatoes (for some carb on carb action). Big, fresh prawns are very welcome too. And so is sliced cucumber with ketchup, which is essential to mee goreng, I feel.

I am a happy camper until I think about the office clothes, no doubt getting tighter.

But while looking at the menu again, I spot something new: Swiss Club Kway Teow With Beef And Spinach ($9.90). Help. 

WHERE: The Black Sheep Cafe, B1-30 Thomson V Two, 11 Sin Ming Road INFO: Go to www.theblacksheepcafe.com/menu.htm to see what is available. Order via WhatsApp on 9272-1842. There is free delivery, available daily, for orders above $100, otherwise delivery costs $6 to $15 depending on distance. Payment is via PayNow.

FOOD CRAFTERS UNITE

One good thing – there are not many, it must be said – that has come out of the coronavirus pandemic is this new can-do spirit in the food and beverage industry. Pretty much overnight, restaurants and hawker stalls pivoted to takeaways and deliveries, bars are selling bottled and bagged cocktails, and wine tasting sessions are happening over Zoom.

A group of local crafters have come under the Shermay.com umbrella to sell their wares. Ms Shermay Lee, food consultant, cookbook author and the founder of Shermay’s Singapore Fine Food, is well known for her punchy and tangy Cilicuka, Nonya Curry Powder and keropok, among other delectables.

Now, you can go to her website and order from other brands. There is Ayam Brand, Batu Lesung Spice Company, Straits Preserves and Mekhala. There is also A.Muse, which makes Nespresso-compatible tea pods, PPP Coffee, with its Nespresso-compatible coffee pods, and the Olive Oil Skincare Company.

I am familiar with most of the brands but have not heard of the Olive Oil Skincare Company until now. Its Rose Geranium Body Wash ($36 for a 500ml bottle) has a beautiful scent that cheers me up no end.

Straits Preserves’ Peaconut Butter with gula melaka ($6 for a 210g jar), is new to me also, although I am familiar with its jams. This local take on peanut butter combines the nuts with coconut and is sweetened wit organic coconut sugar. It is delicious on toast or pancakes. The original Peaconut Butter ($6 for a 210g jar) has no added sugar.

This website is full of good things to order for friends. Mine loved the Batu Lesung Spice Company Paste Gift Box ($24), which contains one pack each of Rendang Rempah, Panggang BBQ Marinade and Classic Curry paste. I have tried all three and can vouch for them.

My other picks would be Shermay’s Cilicuka Original ($10 for a 240ml jar) to use as a dipping sauce, the Sambal Hijau ($10 for a 240ml jar) because it is so good with fried rice and emping crackers ($12 for a 250g bucket); and the Singapore Meat Marinade Original ($11 for a 240ml jar). It is an easy and fuss-free way to marinate chicken wings and pork collar for grilling. Serve with cilicuka on the side.

WHERE: Go to www.shermay.com INFO: Local delivery is free for orders of $45 or more and will take two to three working days. Delivery is $7 for orders less than $45, and there is also express same day delivery at $20, on weekdays only, order before 2pm.

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